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BY , 






THE Author of this Memoir desires to express 
his grateful sense of obligation to the family, 
friends, and business connections of the late 
Mr ELDER, for the ample information which 
they have supplied to him, and for the docu- 
ments to which they have given him access. 

W. J. M. E. 




PARENTAGli, ...... 1 

KiRTir, . . . . . .3 

EDUCATION, ....... 4 



ELDER & CO., . . . . . .6 







BOILERS, . ... . . . .47 

CONDENSERS, ... . . . .47 





FIRM, . . . . r 52 


ACCIDENT FUND, . . . . . 53 






MARRIAGE, ....... 56 

DEATH, ....... 56 






FRASER, ...... 60 


GOVAN, ...... 69 




ESQ., ...... 71 


ESQ., ...... 72 


ESQ., ..... 76 




THE earliest accounts of the family of Elder show it 
to have flourished in the county of Kinross, in the 
east of Scotland, during the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries. The leading branch of the family 
seems to have been that which possessed the estate 
of Arlarie, near the town of Milnathort. There are 
on record the names of two John Elders of Bal- 
bughtie, cadets of the family of Arlarie, one of whom 
lived in the sixteenth, and the other in the seven- 
teenth century, both forefathers of the subject of 
this Memoir. 

The line of his direct ancestors for nearly two 
centuries affords a remarkable example of a fact 
which is more common than is usually supposed 
the hereditary transmission of skill and talent ; for 
they all practised that art from which (as Fairbairn 
tells us) mechanical engineering has sprung that 



of the millwright and were all remarkable for 
ability and success. 

The first of those regarding whom we possess 
definite information was ALEXANDER ELDER, wright 
at Craigo, about two miles west of Milnathort, born 
towards the end of the seventeenth century. He 
married Marion Ireland. His son DAVID ELDER, 
born in 1724, was a wright at Little Seggie, in the 
same neighbourhood; and from note -books of his, 
which are still preserved, he appears to have been 
a man of talent and information, and to have pos- 
sessed considerable knowledge of mathematical and 
mechanical science. He was cut off in 1756, at the 
early age of thirty-two, leaving, by his wife Ellen 
Henderson, three sons and three daughters. His 
eldest son, ALEXANDER, born at Little Seggie about 
1748, carried on at that place, and afterwards at 
Milnathort, the same business. He married Eliza- 
beth Morrison, by whom he had two sons and 
three daughters, and died at Milnathort in December 

In his eldest son, DAVID ELDER, the talent of the 
race, handed down through so many generations, 
began to achieve public distinction. He was born at 
Little Seggie on the 7th of January 1784, and died 
at Glasgow on the 31st of January 1866, at the close 


of a vigorous old age, being then in his eighty-second 
year. A memoir of his life by Mr James E. Napier, 
in which full justice is done to his remarkable 
character and abilities, was published in the ' Trans- 
actions of the Institution of Engineers in Scotland ' 
for 1865-66; and therefore it is sufficient now to 
recapitulate the leading events of his career only. 
He learned the practical part of his trade as an 
apprentice to his father, and its scientific principles 
by the private study of mathematical books during 
intervals of leisure. 

In 1808 he succeeded to his father's business at 
Little Seggie, which he quitted a few years after- 
wards for Paisley ; and in 1817 he removed to Glas- 
gow, thus obtaining a wide field for the exercise of 
his knowledge and skill as a millwright and mecha- 
nical engineer. In 1821 he became manager of the 
works of Mr Eobert Napier, which office he con- 
tinued to hold until induced by advancing age to 

In 181 2 he married Grace, daughter of Mr John 
Gilroy ; and the subject of the present Memoir was 
their third son. 

JOHN ELDER was born at Glasgow on the 8th of 
March 1824. His elementary education was obtained 
in the High School of Glasgow. It does not appear 


that he applied himself to the study of the ancient 
classics ; but the result of his training in English 
scholarship became manifest in after-life ; for in 
writing and speaking on those practical and scientific 
subjects which he understood so well, he showed 
himself master of a clear, concise, and energetic style 
of expression. 

In arithmetic and mathematics, he was a pupil of 
Dr Connell, one of the most able and successful 
teachers of the time ; and here he at once gave 
proofs of extraordinary talent and application, carry- 
ing off the principal prizes of the class. 

In every branch of drawing an art intimately 
connected with mechanical science he was a most 
successful student. 

The studies before mentioned constituted the prin- 
cipal part of his early school education. A constitu- 
tion naturally delicate prevented him from deriving 
the full benefit of his attendance at the High School 
of Glasgow, and from pursuing his studies to any 
considerable extent at a university. A short attend- 
ance at the class of civil engineering in Glasgow 
College was all the university education he received. 
He was fortunate in being educated under the eye 
of his father, whose extensive information and high 


capacity were devoted to the training of his son, 
and under whose judicious advice he prosecuted his 
private studies with that ardour which was so 
marked a characteristic of his later years. The 
scientific knowledge of which he gave proof in 
after-life was not only varied and extensive, but 
was complete and exact, and free from the defects in 
thoroughness and accuracy which often beset self- 
taught scholars. 

To those who knew him well, and enjoyed the 
advantage of personal communication with him, it 
was manifest that his eminence was due not so 
much to teaching by others as to the fact that John 
Elder was that rare character a man of genius ; 
and therefore in a great measure independent of that 
external control and guidance which are necessary 
for the training of ordinary students. In other 
words, his mind was gifted with the faculty of sub- 
jecting itself to that systematic labour and disci- 
pline which has to be enforced in ordinary cases by 
academic authority, and with that strong and clear 
vision which gives the learner the power of finding 
his way through the mazes of science without a 

He acquired, as his father also had done, consider- 


able knowledge and practical skill in music, espe- 
cially that of the organ. 

He served his apprenticeship of five years as an 
engineer in the works of Mr Kobert Napier, under 
the direction of his father, working successively in 
the pattern-shop, moulding-shop, and drawing-office. 
He was then employed for about a year as a pattern- 
maker in the works of Messrs Hick at Bolton-le- 
Moors, and afterwards as a draughtsman on the 
works of the Great Grimsby Docks. 

Before 1849 he returned to the works of Mr 
Napier to take charge of the drawing-office, a most 
important appointment. 

In the summer of 1852, the firm formerly called 
Eandolph, Elliott, & Co. of Glasgow, well known and 
of high standing as millwrights, was joined by Mr 
Elder as a partner, and undertook the business of 
marine engineering, which they had never practised 
before, and which they were now enabled to under- 
take through possessing a partner with a thorough 
knowledge of the principles and practice of that 
branch of applied mechanics. The firm from that 
time was known by the designation of " Eandolph, 
Elder, & Co. " until 1868 ; and subsequent to the 
retirement of the other partners, its name became at 
first "John Elder," and then "John Elder & Co." 


About 1860 the firm added shipbuilding to the other 
branches of its business. 

The career of Mr Elder as a. marine engineer and 
shipbuilder is so closely connected with the applica- 
tion of the compound expansive steam-engine to the 
propulsion of ships, that it now becomes necessary 
to introduce into this Memoir a brief explanation of 
the principles of that class of steam-engines, and a 
summary of their history from the time of their first 

In every machine a certain quantity of energy, 
or power of doing work, is expended, in order that a 
certain amount of work may be done. In every 
machine, and under all circumstances, the whole 
work done is equal to the energy expended; but 
only part of that work is useful, the remainder being 
useless, so that the energy expended in doing it is 
wasted. For example, in a pumping steam-engine 
the useful work consists in raising, in a given time, 
a certain quanity of water to a certain height : the 
useless, or wasteful work, is that done in overcoming 
friction. The proportion which the useful work 
done bears to the energy expended is called the 
efficiency. In an absolutely perfect machine, the 
efficiency would be represented by unity but no 
such machine exists ; and in every actual machine, 


the efficiency is expressed by a fraction which falls 
short of unity by an amount corresponding to the 
energy that is wasted. 

In a steam-engine there are several successive 
causes of waste of energy. In the first place, the 
whole of the energy which the fuel is capable of pro- 
ducing by its combustion is not communicated to 
the water in the boiler, but only a certain fraction of 
that energy, ranging in ordinary cases from six-tenths 
to eight-tenths : this fraction is the efficiency of the 
'boiler; and the amount by which it falls short of 
unity corresponds to the heat lost by imperfect com- 
bustion, by conduction and radiation, and by the 
high temperature at which the furnace-gas escapes 
through the chimney. 

Secondly, the whole of the energy which in the 
form of heat is communicated to the water in the 
boiler, so as to raise its temperature and convert it 
into steam, is not obtained in the form of mechanical 
work done by the steam in driving the piston. In 
fact, it has for some years been known, through the 
progress of the science of thermodynamics, that the 
work done by the steam in driving the piston (often 
called the indicated work, because its amount can be 
registered by a self-acting instrument called the indi- 
cator) corresponds to a quantity of energy which has 


disappeared from the form of heat, being the differ- 
ence between the heat brought by the steam from 
the boiler, and the heat carried away by the same 
steam when it leaves the cylinder. That difference, 
in every case which can occur in practice, is but a 
small fraction of the whole heat brought by the steam 
from the boiler, such as a twentieth, or a tenth ; and 
that fraction is the efficiency of the steam. 

Thirdly, the whole of the energy exerted by the 
steam in driving the piston is not communicated to 
the machine which it is the purpose of the engine to 
drive ; for a fraction of that energy, say from an 
eighth to a fourth, is wasted in overcoming the fric- 
tion of the engine the difference between that frac- 
tion and unity being the efficiency of the mechanism. 

Fourthly, when the machine which it is the pur- 
pose of the engine to drive is an instrument for pro- 
pelling a ship, a fraction of the energy is wasted in 
agitating the water in which the propeller works, the 
remainder only being usefully expended in overcom- 
ing the resistance of the vessel, and driving her ahead ; 
and the ratio which this last remainder bears to the 
whole energy expended by the engine in driving the 
propeller is a fraction called the efficiency of tJie pro- 

The efficiency of the whole combination, made up 


of furnace, boiler, engine, and propeller, is found by 
multiplying together the four fractions already men- 
tioned viz., the efficiency of the boiler, the effici- 
ency of the steam, the efficiency of the mechanism, 
and the efficiency of the propeller and is of course a 
smaller fraction than any of the factors of which it 
is the product. 

The object of improvements in the economy of the 
marine steam-engine is to increase as far as practi- 
cable, consistently with due regard to economy in 
first cost, each of the four factors of the efficiency. 

Judgment, as well as skill, is specially required in 
applying to practice in marine steam -engineering 
improvements whose objects are to increase the me- 
chanical efficiency of the furnace and boiler, of the 
steam in the cylinder, and of the mechanism; for 
those improvements for the most part tend more or 
less to increase the cost of construction ; and thus 
there arises in each case the commercial question, 
Whether the economy in working to be attained by 
means of a given increase of efficiency is sufficient 
to warrant the additional expenditure ? In deciding 
that question, regard must be had to many different 
circumstances such as the length of the voyage, the 
intended speed, the price of fuel, and the nature of 
the traffic. For example, it would be a waste of 


money and labour to make elaborately-designed 
boilers and engines of very high efficiency for vessels 
intended to run short trips between places where coal 
is cheap and abundant ; while for ships designed to 
make long voyages, with few and distant coaling 
stations, and expensive fuel, every improvement that 
increases efficiency may be a profitable investment. 
It is not sufficient, then, for success in the business of 
marine engineering, that the engineer should possess 
knowledge of the mechanical principles of his art, and 
skill in their practical application for these qualifi- 
cations alone might lead him into needless expense 
in the production of a degree of mechanical efficiency 
not required by the circumstances of particular cases ; 
he ought also to have a sound judgment regarding the 
commercial result of the adaptation of engines of a 
given kind to a given vessel, intended for a given trade. 
Those different qualifications are so seldom found 
united in one man, that the tendency of popular 
opinion is to regard them as incompatible, and to 
look especially upon the knowledge, skill, and enter- 
prise which lead an engineer to adopt new or un- 
usual improvements in practice as being fraught 
with danger to his success in business ; and so no 
doubt they are, unless regulated by commercial 


The success of Mr Elder and of his firm proved 
that his commercial sagacity was not inferior to his 
knowledge, skill, and enterprise, and that his was 
one of those rare minds in which was realised that 
uncommon combination of talent. 

It now becomes necessary to point out more in 
detail the nature of the improvements which Mr 
Elder, by himself, or with the co-operation of his 
firm, carried out in the practice of marine engi- 
neering ; and as the most important of these were 
connected with the second and third factors of effi- 
ciency already referred to that of the steam in its 
action on the piston, and that of the mechanism 
the circumstances on which that second factor de- 
pends will, in the first place, be explained. 

The expenditure of energy in the form of heat 
required in order to produce a given weight of steam, 
when the water is supplied to the boiler at a given 
temperature, increases when the pressure and tem- 
perature of the steam increase, but at a compara- 
tively slow rate. For example, the expenditure of 
heat required to produce a given weight of steam at 
the pressure of ten atmospheres (about 147 Ib. on 
the square inch of absolute pressure, or 132.3 Ib. 
on the square inch above the atmosphere), the feed- 
water being at the temperature of about 100 Fahren- 


heit, is greater than that required to produce an 
equal weight at the atmospheric pressure, in the 
proportion only of 1.04 to 1, or 26 to 25 nearly. 
Hence the problem of obtaining the greatest possible 
quantity of indicated work from a given expenditure 
of heat in producing steam, is so nearly identical 
with that of obtaining the greatest possible quantity 
of work from a given weight of steam, that in practice 
the difference between those two problems may be 

All mechanical work is done by the exertion of 
a force through a space, and is calculated and ex- 
pressed as a quantity by multiplying the mean 
amount of the force into the space through which 
it acts. In the case of steam, the space is the dis- 
tance through which the piston is driven in a given 
time ; the force is the excess of the forward pressure 
exerted by the steam behind the piston as it comes 
from the boiler, and afterwards expands, above the 
backward pressure exerted by the steam in front of 
the piston while it is being expelled from the cylin- 
der into the condenser in condensing engines, or into 
the atmosphere in non-condensing engines. In a 
non-condensing engine the back-pressure is a little 
greater than that of the atmosphere, say from 15 Ib. to 
18 Ib. on the square inch. In a condensing engine 


the back-pressure is lower than that of the atmo- 
sphere, to an extent depending on the efficiency with 
which the condenser acts (or on the goodness of the 
vacuum, as it is commonly called), and ranges in 
ordinary cases from 3 Ib. to 5 Ib. on the square inch. 
In an expansive steam-engine, the forward pres- 
sure exerted by the quantity of steam that is ad- 
mitted behind the piston at each stroke has two 
stages in its action the admission and the expansion. 
During the admission the steam is coming from the 
boiler into the cylinder, and it exerts a pressure less 
than that in the boiler only by the amount required 
to overcome the friction of pipes, passages, and valve- 
ports : say about a twelfth of the absolute pressure in 
the boiler in ordinary cases. The admission is ter- 
minated by the cut-off that is, by the closing of 
the valve which admits the steam into the cylinder. 
Then follows the expansion of the steam which is 
confined in the cylinder; and during this stage of 
its action, it goes on occupying a continually increas- 
ing space as it drives the piston before it, and exert- 
ing a continually diminishing pressure. The exact 
law according to which the pressure diminishes while 
the steam expands is complicated, and is different 
under different circumstances as to heat. For ordi- 
nary practical calculations, however, it is sufficiently 


accurate to assume the simple approximate law that 
the pressure varies inversely as the volume, falling 
to one-half of its original intensity when the volume 
is doubled, to one-third when the volume is trebled; 
and so on. 

It is obvious that work continues to be done by 
the steam in driving the piston so long as the pres- 
sure behind the piston, or forward pressure, continues 
to be greater than the pressure in front, or back-pres- 
sure, exerted by the steam which has already done 
its work, and which the piston is expelling from 
the cylinder; and hence it follows, that in order to 
realise the greatest quantity of work which the steam 
is capable of performing, the expansion ought to be 
carried on until the forward pressure of the steam 
behind the piston has fallen so low as to be just 
sufficient to overcome the back -pressure, and that 
to end the expansive working of the steam at an 
earlier period of the stroke is to throw away part of 
the power of the steam. 

This statement must, however, be taken with the 
qualification that when the excess of the forward 
pressure above the back - pressure falls below the 
pressure which is just sufficient to overcome the 
friction, the work done is no longer partly useful and 
partly wasteful, but is wholly wasteful; whence it 


follows that, although in order to obtain the greatest 
indicated work from a given weight of steam the ex- 
pansion should be continued until the forward pres- 
sure becomes just equal to the back -pressure, the 
greatest useful work is obtained by making the ex- 
pansion cease when the forward pressure is just 
equal to the back-pressure added to a pressure equiv- 
alent to the friction of the engine. 

Another obvious principle is, that both the indi- 
cated and the useful work obtained from a given 
weight of steam must be the greater the greater the 
proportion in which the forward pressure exceeds the 
back-pressure. To take an extreme case: If the 
mean forward pressure be simply equal to the back- 
pressure, no indicated work whatsoever is obtained 
from the steam ; and if the mean forward pressure is 
simply equal to the back-pressure added to the fric- 
tion, no useful work is obtained. Hence the higher 
the forward pressure, and the lower the back-pres- 
sure, the greater is the efficiency of the steam in an 
engine ; and as the pressure increases and diminishes 
with the temperature, the same principle may be 
otherwise expressed by saying that the temperature 
of the steam on its admission ought to be as high as 
possible, and that in a condensing engine the tem- 
perature in the condenser, on which the back-pres- 


sure depends, ought to be as low as possible. In a 
non-condensing engine, the back-pressure, as formerly 
stated, is a little above that of the atmosphere. 

The foregoing principle, as applied to the temper- 
ature in a condensing engine, was first distinctly 
stated by James Watt ; and he invented the separate 
condenser as a means of carrying it into effect. 

The pressure at which the steam is admitted is 
limited only by the strength and safety of the boiler. 
In Watt's time, he, in common with most other 
engineers, was very cautious in the use of high pres- 
sures ; and he therefore relied more on a low back- 
pressure than on a high forward pressure for the 
efficiency of his engines. Improvements in the con- 
struction of boilers, and experience of their safety 
under high pressures when properly designed and 
managed, have caused subsequent engineers to become 
gradually bolder in the use of such pressures. 

In order to realise the greatest theoretical efficiency 
in the expansive working of steam, the expansion 
ought to take place in a non-conducting cylinder, 
with a non-conducting piston. This condition can- 
not be absolutely realised in practice ; but means may 
be taken to diminish the loss of efficiency arising 
from the conducting power of the cylinder and piston 
until it becomes unimportant. 



If that loss arose solely from the waste of heat by 
its passage through the metal of the cylinder to the 
air outside, it would be sufficient for its practical pre- 
vention to clothe the cylinder with bad conductors, 
such as wood and felt. But by far the greater part 
of that loss arises in a different and more complex 
way, which was not thoroughly understood until 
about 1849 or 1850, when the consequences of the 
disappearance of heat in performing mechanical 
work were demonstrated. Until that time it was 
erroneously believed, from reasoning based on the 
hypothesis of caloric, that a given weight of steam, 
after performing work by expansion, contained ex- 
actly as much heat as before, and was therefore 
superheated ; because the quantity of heat sufficient 
to keep it in the vaporous state at the higher pres- 
sure was more than sufficient to produce the same 
effect at the lower pressure ; and that statement was 
so confidently believed that it was distinctly laid 
down as a fundamental principle in all, or almost 
all, writings on the theory of the steam-engine. 

One of the earliest consequences deduced from the 
principles of thermodynamics was, that when steam 
performs work by expansion, a quantity of heat dis- 
appears sufficient not only to lower the temperature 
of the steam to that corresponding to its lowered 


pressure, but to cause a certain portion of the steam 
to pass into the liquid state. The steam thus spon- 
taneously liquified collects in the form of water in the 
cylinder; and if the cylinder and piston were made of 
a non-conducting material, that water would simply be 
discharged from time to time into the condenser, with- 
out causing any waste of heat. But the cylinder and 
piston, being made of a conducting material, give out 
heat to the liquid water which adheres to them, so 
as to re-evaporate it when the communication with 
the condenser is opened ; and that heat is carried off 
to the condenser with the exhaust-steam, leaving the 
piston and the inside of the cylinder at a low tem- 
perature, even though the outside of the cylinder 
should be clothed with an absolute non-conductor. 
When steam from the boiler is admitted at the be- 
ginning of the next stroke, part of it is immediately 
liquified through the expenditure of its heat in 
raising the piston and the inside of the cylinder 
again to a high temperature, the result being that 
at the end of the second stroke the quantity of liquid 
water which is re-evaporated, and carries off heat to 
the condenser, is greater than it was at the end of the 
first stroke. At each successive stroke that quantity 
augments until it reaches a fixed amount, depending 
mainly on the difference of the temperatures of the 


steam at the beginning and end of the expansion ; 
and the effect is the same as if a certain quantity of 
steam at each stroke passed directly from the boiler 
to the condenser without performing work. In some 
experiments lately made, the quantity of steam which 
thus ran to waste was found to be greater than that 
which performed work ; so that the expenditure of 
steam was more than doubled. 

The remedy for this cause of loss is to prevent 
that spontaneous liquifaction of the steam during 
its expansive working, in which the process just 
described originates ; and that is done either by en- 
closing the cylinder in a jacket or casing supplied 
with hot steam from the boiler, or by superheating 
the steam before its admission into the cylinder ; or 
by both those means combined. The steam is thus 
kept in a nearly dry state, so as to be a bad con- 
ductor of heat ; and the moisture which it contains, 
though sufficient to lubricate the piston, is not 
allowed to increase to such an extent as to carry 
away any appreciable quantity of heat from the 
metal of the cylinder and piston to the condensers. 

The steam-jacket outside the cylinder was in- 
vented and used by Watt. Whether he fully under- 
stood the nature of its action can never be known ; 
for he did not publish any reason for using it except 


that of keeping the steam as hot as possible. Its 
real action was certainly not understood by Watt's 
immediate successors, nor indeed by any one, until 
the principles of thermodynamics were applied to 
the question about twenty years ago; and many 
engineers, reasoning correctly from the erroneous hy- 
pothesis of caloric, concluded that the steam-jacket 
was unnecessary, and abandoned its use. The fact of 
liquid water collecting in the cylinder was known, 
but was ascribed to " priming," or the carrying of 
spray from the boiler. The use of the steam-jacket 
was retained in a few special kinds of engines, such 
as the Cornish pumping-engines ; and in them the 
economy properly due to high rates of expansion of 
the steam was realised ; but in almost all other 
engines, and certainly in marine engines, the jacket 
was abandoned, with this result that little or no 
practical advantage was found to result from expan- 
sive working when the steam was expanded to more 
than about double, or two and a half times its original 
volume ; and this became a received maxim amongst 
engineers, and especially amongst marine engineers, 
for its truth in the case of unjacketed cylinders was 
established by practical experience, as well as by 
experiments made for the purpose of testing it. 
The jacketing of the piston, by filling its internal 


hollow with hot steam from the boiler, was invented 
by M. Normand of Havre, and introduced into Bri- 
tain by Mr Davison at a comparatively recent date, 
after the action of the steam-jacket had been ex- 
plained according to the principles of thermodyna- 
mics, and its use revived in practice. 

So far as the theoretical action of the steam on the 
piston is concerned, it is immaterial whether the ex- 
pansion takes place in one cylinder, or in two or more 
successive cylinders. The advantage of employing 
the compound engine is connected with those causes 
which make the actual indicated work of steam fall 
short of its theoretical amount, and also with the 
strength of the engine and its framing, the steadiness 
of its action, and the friction of its mechanism. 

The force exerted by the steam on the piston of an 
engine is transmitted by the piston-rod to the mov- 
ing pieces of the machinery which it drives such as 
the connecting-rod, crank, and crank-shaft ; and by 
the bearings of the moving pieces it is transmitted 
to the framework. It produces straining actions on 
all those pieces, moving and fixed ; and each of them 
must be made strong enough to bear safely the 
straining action produced, not by the mean or aver- 
age force exerted by the steam, but by the greatest 
force. The mean force which the steam has to exert 


on the piston depends on the power required to do 
the work of the engine, and on the mean speed of 
the piston ; and the greater the rate of expansion, 
the greater is the inequality between the greatest 
force and the mean force, and the stronger must the 
engine be made. For example, when the steam is 
expanded to twice its original volume, its pressure 
during its admission is about once and a fifth its 
mean pressure ; when to five times, its pressure dur- 
ing admission is about double of its mean pressure ; 
and when to ten times, its pressure during admission 
is about three times its mean pressure ; so that in 
this last example, if the engine is single cylindered, 
all parts of the mechanism and framing that are 
strained by the force of the steam must be made 
three times as strong as they would require to be in 
an engine of the same power working without expan- 
sion. That additional strength involves not only 
additional cost of construction, but additional fric- 
tion, because of the greater size of the bearings ; and 
thus the economy of power due to expansion is 
partly neutralised. 

It was to obviate this disadvantage in the use of 
high rates of expansion that the earliest form of 
compound steam-engine was contrived by Horn- 
blower in 1781. That engine was single-acting, and 


adapted to the pumping of mines ; it had two cylin- 
ders, standing side by side, and having their pistons 
hung from the same end of the walking-beam ; the 
larger cylinder was of the dimensions suited for a 
single-cylinder engine of the same power and speed ; 
but instead of admitting the steam at its compara- 
tively high initial pressure to act upon the large area 
of the piston of that cylinder, and thus to exert a 
great straining force, it was admitted in the first 
place into the smaller cylinder, so as to exert a 
straining force equal to the initial pressure multi- 
plied by the area of the smaller piston only ; and 
after having done part of its work by expansion in 
the smaller cylinder, it was transferred to the larger 
cylinder in a state of increased volume and dimi- 
nished pressure to complete its action there. The 
cylinders were called the high-pressure and low- 
pressure cylinders respectively, and the same terms 
are still used in describing compound engines. 

The same principle of action was applied by 
Woolf to engines with Watt's separate condenser, 
and to double - acting steam - engines ; and conse- 
quently compound engines came to be very generally 
known as " Woolf 's engines." 

In Woolf 's form of the compound engine, as well 
as in Hornblower's, the two piston-rods are hung 


from the same end of a walking-beam, so that the 
forces exerted through them act in the same direc- 
tion at the same time ; and the straining actions 
produced on the framing and mechanism are those 
due to the sum of those forces. The same is the case 
in those forms of direct-acting compound engines for 
marine purposes in which the high and low pressure 
piston-rods are hung from one cross-head. Hence, 
although the straining actions of the two rods are, 
in a well -designed engine of the construction just 
mentioned, less than in a single-cylindered engine of 
equal power, they are not so small as they may be 
made to become by causing the straining actions 
due to the two forces to oppose each other. This 
improvement, so far as the straining actions on a 
walking-beam and its bearings are concerned, was 
introduced by M'Naught, who hung the two piston- 
rods from the opposite arms of the walking-beam, so 
as to make the difference, instead of the sum of their 
straining forces, act on the main centre. The sum, 
however, of those forces still acts on the bearings of 
the shaft in M'Naught's engine, in the direct-acting 
engines already referred to, and in the forms of com- 
pound engine described in Mr Craddock's treatise on 
that subject. That book was published in 1847, and 
contains the descriptions and drawings of compound 


engines adapted to marine, locomotive, and other 
purposes, as patented by him at different times from 
1840 to 1846. 

Craddock's compound engine, as described by him 
in the treatise just mentioned, is direct-acting. The 
high and low pressure cylinders, placed side by side, 
are not exactly parallel to each other, but make a 
small angle in order to enable the engine to " pass 
the centre." The two piston-rods are connected 
with one crank ; upon which, therefore, and upon the 
shaft and its bearings, they exert a straining action 
due to the resultant of their forces, which, though 
not quite, is very nearly equal to their sum. 

Craddock's compound engine, as described in his 
treatise, is further defective through the absence of 
steam-jackets, which are now known to be essential 
to the realising of the economy properly due to high 
rates of expansion ; and unless that economy be fully 
realised, the additional cost and complexity of a 
compound engine are thrown away. 

It is true that in some steamers fitted with Crad- 
dock's engines, or engines resembling them, at a later 
date (viz., in 1858 and subsequently) the straining 
actions of the pistons were opposed to each other, 
and the cylinders were jacketed ; but this was long 
after the time at which the proper principles of the 


construction of compound marine engines had been 
brought into practical use by Messrs Eandolph, 
Elder, & Co. 

In 1850 a peculiar form of compound steam- 
engine called the " continuous expansion engine " 
was patented by Mr Nicholson. The pistons of the 
high and low pressure cylinders drive two cranks at 
right angles to each other ; and the straining action 
is the resultant of those due to the forces acting 
through the two rods. This form has considerable 
advantages in certain cases ; but it was not brought 
into practical use till about six or seven years 

It results, then, from the history of marine steam 
engineering, that previous to the formation of the 
firm of Eandolph, Elder, & Co., the compound steam- 
engine had not been successfully applied in Great 
Britain to the propulsion of vessels ; that compound 
engines such as Craddock's had been proposed for 
that purpose, but had not been designed so as fully 
to realise the advantages of that form of engine ; 
that the abandonment of the steam-jacket in the 
practice of almost all marine engineers had made it 
useless, if not wasteful, to employ those high rates 
of expansion to which the compound engine is 
suited ; and that as this practical error originated in 


an erroneous theory of the mechanical action of heat, 
founded on the hypothesis of substantial caloric, 
then universally prevalent, it was not to be expected 
that it should be reformed except by an engineer 
who had studied and understood the principles of 
the then almost new science of thermodynamics. 

Such an engineer was Mr Elder. He knew, in 
common with other practical men, the fact that 
when high rates of expansion were used with a view 
to economy of fuel, their economical action was 
defeated by the gathering in the cylinders of large 
quantities of liquid water, which evaporated when the 
exhaust-port opened, and carried away heat to the 
condenser; but he had learned also what was known 
to very few practical men fifteen years ago that the 
formation of that liquid water originated in the dis- 
appearance of heat during the performance of work 
by the expansion of the steam, and that the remedy 
was to supply the cylinder with additional heat to 
replace that which so disappears, by returning to the 
practice of Watt and the Cornish engineers, and 
resuming the use of the steam-jacket. 

Mr Elder had also mastered a subject which, 
before his time, had been almost wholly neglected, 
and which even now does not always meet with the 
attention that it deserves, and that is, the diminu- 


tion of the friction of the engine by causing the 
forces which drive the shaft round to balance and 
neutralise, as far as possible, each other's actions on 
the bearings where the friction takes place. As an 
elementary illustration of this subject, suppose that 
a shaft is made to rotate by means of a single force 
applied to a single crank-pin. The whole of that 
force will be transmitted to the bearings, and will 
there produce a pressure which will cause a certain 
amount of friction in addition to that produced by 
the weight of the shaft. But if we now divide the 
force required to drive the shaft into two equal forces 
of half the amount, and apply them in opposite direc- 
tions to a pair of cranks exactly opposite to each 
other, those two driving forces will balance each 
other as regards pressure on the bearings, and the 
friction will be that due to the weight of the shaft 
alone. It is impossible in practice to realise this 
balance of driving forces with absolute precision, but 
an approach to it can always be made. One of the 
most important advantages of compound cylinder 
engines with opposite cranks is their enabling that 
balance of driving forces to be approximately real- 
ised ; and that advantage had been neglected or very 
imperfectly developed before Messrs Eandolph, Elder, 
& Co. constructed their marine engines, which in this 


respect were a great improvement upon all compound 
engines previously invented. 

The careful attention which Mr Elder had bestowed 
on the friction of engines and the means of diminish- 
ing it, is fully shown in an unpublished lecture which 
he delivered before the United Service Institution 
in April 1866. He there takes a practical example 
of a marine engine, and shows by detailed calcula- 
tion how from 10 to 15 per cent of the whole indi- 
cated power of an engine may be wasted in unneces- 
sary friction through neglect of proper arrangements 
for the mutual balancing of the forces exerted on the 
shaft. In fact, he took a more correct view of the 
real advantages of the compound engine than had 
previously been done by any practical engineer ; re- 
garding it as a means, not so much of increasing the 
indicated power produced by a given expenditure of 
steam, as of diminishing that waste of power which 
causes the effective power to fall short of the indi- 
cated power. 

In the lecture already referred to, Mr Elder points 
out under what circumstances it becomes advantage- 
ous to employ a compound engine rather than a 
single-cylinder engine viz., when the rate of expan- 
sion exceeds four. He adds that, should rates of 
expansion greater than nine be used, it will become 


advisable to expand the steam in three successive 
cylinders instead of two. 

Most of the improvements introduced by Messrs 
Randolph, Elder, & Co. in marine engineering were 
secured by a series of patents, of which the following 
is a summary the patents being distinguished by 
letters ; and it is also shown which of those patents 
were taken in the names of both partners, and which 
in the name of one only. 

A. Charles Eandolph and John Elder dated 24th 
January 1853. An arrangement of compound engines 
adapted to the driving of the screw-propeller. The 
engines are vertical, direct-acting, and geared. The 
pistons of the high and low pressure cylinders move 
in contrary directions, and drive diametrically oppo- 
site cranks, with a view to the diminution of strain 
and friction. 

B. John Elder dated 28th February 1854. For 
an improved arrangement of the parts of horizontal 
direct-acting condensing engines for screw-steamers. 

C. Charles Eandolph and John Elder dated 15th 
March 1856. This describes an arrangement of com- 
pound engines which was applied with most success- 
ful results to a long series of steamers. There are 
two diametrically opposite cranks and four cylinders, 
making a pair of compound engines ; the high and 


low pressure cylinder of each engine lie side by side 
in an inclined position, and their pistons move in 
contrary directions ; and this arrangement not only 
promotes the balance of driving forces, but enables 
the steam to pass from the high pressure to the low 
pressure cylinder in the most direct manner possible, 
without having to traverse long crooked passages as 
it did in Hornblower's and Woolf s engines. 

The directions in which the cylinders of the two 
engines lean are contrary that is to say, for example, 
in a paddle-wheel steamer the forward engines in- 
cline backwards, and the after engines forward ; and 
in a screw-steamer the starboard and port engines 
lean respectively to starboard and to port, so that 
their piston-rods make with each other an angle 
which, in different engines, ranges from 60 to 90. 
The whole arrangement is one of the most simple 
and compact that is possible in a pair of compound 
engines, and it produces as near an approach to a 
balance of driving forces as is practicable when each 
engine has two cylinders only. 

An ingenious contrivance for reversing the engine 
is described, consisting in an arrangement of epicyclic 
gearing, whereby a loose eccentric is made when re- 
quired to overrun the shaft until it reaches the posi- 
tion for backward gear. 


The specification fully states the importance of 
providing each cylinder with a steam-casing or jacket 
to prevent liquifaction : but this is not claimed ; for 
it was not a new invention, but, as has been already 
explained, the revival of a practice which had fallen 
into neglect, though essential to the economical use 
of high rates of expansion. 

D. John Elder dated 29th January 1858. The 
specification of this patent describes an arrangement 
of cylinders in the compound engine by which a 
nearly perfect balance of driving forces is obtained, 
and not merely a good approximation to such balance, 
as in the arrangements previously described; and 
consequently it may be regarded as embodying the 
principles of the construction of steam-engines of 
which Mr Elder approved, in their most complete 
form, calculated to realise the greatest possible effi- 
ciency of the mechanism as well as of the steam. 
There are three cranks on the shaft two pointing 
diametrically opposite to the third, which lies be- 
tween them. Each engine has three cylinders, lying 
parallel to each other and side by side ; in the middle 
is the high-pressure cylinder, whose piston drives the 
middle crank; at its two sides are a pair of low- 
pressure cylinders, whose pistons move simultane- 
ously in the contrary direction to that of the middle 



cylinder, and drive the other two cranks. Thus the 
resultant of the forces exerted through the two low- 
pressure piston-rods is not merely contrary in direc- 
tion, but directly opposed to the force exerted through 
the high-pressure piston-rod; and if the rates of ex- 
pansion in the high and low pressure cylinders are 
properly adjusted to their dimensions, there is an 
exact balance of the actions of those forces on the 

When there is only one low-pressure cylinder, as 
in the engines described under patent C, the forces 
exerted through the two piston-rods may be equal 
and contrary, but they are not directly opposed, be- 
cause they are exerted at different points in the shaft; 
and hence the balance of driving forces cannot be 
quite exact. 

Two or more three-cylindered compound engines 
can be placed at suitable angles of inclination to each 
other, so as to drive one shaft, as in the arrangement 
of two-cylindered engines described in specification C. 

As the three-cylindered compound engine is some- 
what more expensive than a two-cylindered compound 
engine of the same power, it has been used only in 
certain cases where special economy of power was 
desired. Its success in practice will be described 
further on. 


In specification D, as well as in specification C, the 
importance of the steam-jacket is mentioned ; but, 
for the reason already stated, that part of the engine 
is not claimed. 

E. John Elder dated 7th June 1858. This patent 
is for a very simple but very important improvement 
the making of paddle-floats of plates of iron or steel, 
bevelled to a sharp edge, instead of thick wooden 
planks. The broad edges of wooden paddle-floats 
oppose a resistance to the plunging them into and 
drawing them out of the water; and the inventor 
considered that the substitution for them of compara- 
tively thin sharp-edged metal plates caused a gain of 
from 4 to 6 per cent in the speed of a given vessel 
with engines of a given power. This invention was 
perfectly successful in practice, and was applied to 
several steamers in the course of the year in which 
the patent was obtained, and it still continues to be 
put in practice by the firm with beneficial results. 

F. Charles Eandolph and John Elder dated 28th 
April 1859. This patent is for a variety of improve- 
ments in engines and boilers, which it is unnecessary 
to describe in detail. Amongst other inventions, it 
describes the making of a boiler with two or more 
uptakes, in order to increase the surface for super- 
heating the steam. 


G. John Elder dated 15th October 1859. This 
patent relates to details of mechanism for moving 

H. John Elder dated 25th April 1862. This 
relates to a variety of improvements, amongst which 
may be mentioned improvements on slide-valves, 
so contrived as to give a smaller opening for the 
admission of steam and a larger for the exhaust ; 
reversing-gear, in which the position of the eccentric 
is changed when required by the action of a spiral 
feather on a shaft which is capable of being shifted 
longitudinally ; arrangements for working steam 
expansively in four successive cylinders ; and an 
improved kind of water-tube boiler. 

/. Charles Randolph and John Elder dated 20th 
April 1863. Improvements in surface-condensers, 
provisionally protected only. 

/. John Elder dated 18th November 1863. 
This patent is for constructing plate-iron floating- 
docks, so as to be capable of being navigated from 
place to place by sails and steam. Three such 
floating-docks were built by the firm, but were 
not navigated : one was for Java ; another for the 
French Government, fitted up at Saigon, in Cochin- 
China ; the third was for a company in Peru. The 


two latter have been of great service, and are at 
present in successful operation. 

K. John Elder dated 19th November 1863. 
This patent is for various modifications in compound 
engines, and amongst others for a convenient ar- 
rangement of the surface-condenser, in which it is 
divided into two parts, with tubes parallel to the 
screw-propeller shaft. 

L. John Elder dated 9th July 1866. This also 
is for modifications of compound engines. 

M. Charles Eandolph dated 15th December 1866. 
This relates to hydraulic or water-tube propellers. 

N. John Elder dated 28th September 1867. 
For improvements in floating-batteries a most re- 
markable and important invention, which will be 
described further on. 

The first vessel fitted with compound engines 
by Messrs Randolph, Elder, & Co., was the screw- 
steamer Brandon. Her engines were of the kind 
described in specification A. She made her trial-trip 
in July 1854, when her rate of consumption of coal 
was found to be about 3| Ib. per indicated horse- 
power per hour. It is well known that the lowest 
rate of consumption of coal in steamers previous to 
that time was about 4 Ib. or 4| Ib. per indicated horse- 


power per hour ; and such, indeed, is the greatest 
economy that can be expected from such rates of 
expansion of the steam as are suitable for unjacketed 

The Brandon was chartered during the Crimean 
war as a despatch - boat, and maintained during 
many years of service the same economy which she 
had realised on her trial 

The second and third ships were the paddle- 
steamers Inca and Valparaiso, for the Pacific Steam 
Navigation Company. The engines of the Inca 
were started in May 1856, those of the Valparaiso 
in July 1856. Each of these ships had a pair of 
engines of that compound class described in patent 
G, already mentioned ; the cylinders were jacketed 
at top and bottom only, and not round the sides. 

The first ship in which engines of the same 
kind had their cylinders completely jacketed was 
the Admiral, built by Mr J. R. Napier, and engined 
by Messrs Randolph, Elder, & Co. Her trial-trip 
was made in June 1858 ; and in October 1858 she 
was followed by the Callao, built by Messrs John 
Reid & Co. of Port Glasgow. The rate of consump- 
tion of coal was found to be : In the Inca, 2^ Ib. ; in 
the Valparaiso and the Admiral 3 Ib. ; and in the 
Callao 2.7 Ib. per indicated horse-power per hour a 


degree of economy never before realised in marine 
engines; and this was not only obtained on the trial- 
trips, but maintained during many years' subsequent 
service at sea. It amounted to saving of from 30 to 
40 per cent of the coal previously burned by steamers 
of the same class ; and it is not too much to say that 
it was this saving which rendered it practicable to carry 
on steam navigation on the Pacific Ocean with profit. 

The success of the engines of those ships may be 
held to have conclusively established the practical 
value of the principles on which they were designed ; 
and it was followed by the construction, by Messrs 
Randolph, Elder, & Co., of a long series of steamers, 
in which the same principles, being more fully 
carried out that is to say, with higher initial 
pressures, greater rates of expansion, and greater 
proportions of superheating surface realised even 
greater economy, the regular rates of consumption of 
fuel ranging from 2^ Ib. to 2 Ib. per indicated horse- 
power per hour. 

Another natural consequence was the adoption in 
the practice of other marine engineers of the same 
fundamental principles that is to say, the use of 
high rates of expansion in the engines of vessels 
intended for long voyages, together with the means 
of causing such rates to realise their proper economy 


viz., jacketing and superheating. In carrying out 
these principles, different forms of engine have been 
designed by different engineers some have devised 
peculiar forms of the compound engine, others have 
preferred that the whole work of the steam should 
be done in one cylinder. In some cases, forms of 
engine that had long before been proposed, but not 
executed, have been revived and applied to practice. 
The detailed history of all these inventions and im- 
provements would be very interesting, but it would 
be foreign to the purpose of the present Memoir. 

In 1865 a comparative trial was made by the 
Government of the performance of three kinds of 
marine engines, fitted in three of her Majesty's 
ships, the Arethusa, the Octavia, and the Constance. 
Those three vessels are of nearly similar model, and 
of nearly equal size the tonnage of all three lying 
between 3100 and 3200 tons. Each vessel was fitted 
with engines of 500 nominal horse-power, and with 

There is no reason to believe that the engines of 
any one of those three ships were in the slightest 
degree inferior to those of the others in materials or 
execution, all three being in these respects of the very- 
first order; and the comparison between them must 
therefore be regarded as showing how the efficiency 


of the boilers, engines, and mechanism was affected 
by the principles embodied in their respective designs. 

The principal differences were in the construction 
of the mechanism of the engine. The Arethusa 
had a pair of single-cylindered direct-acting horizon- 
tal trunk -engines, with cranks at right angles, by 
Messrs John Penn & Sons. 

The Octavia had a set of three single cylinders, 
horizontal and direct, with double piston-rods acting 
on three cranks, making with each other equal an- 
gles of 120 degrees. These were made by Messrs 

The Constance had a pair of three-cylindered com- 
pound engines, of the construction designated by D 
in the account already given of Mr Elder's inven- 
tions, and described as giving the closest approxima- 
tion to a balance of driving forces on the shaft. Thus 
the engines of the Arethusa had in all two cylinders, 
those of the Octavia three, and those of the Con- 
stance six. 

Those three ships started together from Plymouth 
at six o'clock in the evening of the 30th September 
1865, in order to run by the most direct course 
practicable to Funchal in Madeira, a distance of 
very nearly 1100 nautical miles. 

For three days the three ships ran a nearly direct 


course under steam alone, the Constance and the 
Arethusa gaining slightly on the Octavia. 

The Arethusa then made sail, and ran for three 
days more under steam and canvas combined, her 
course diverging to the eastward. During those 
three days the Constance and the Octavia continued 
to run a nearly direct course for Funchal, almost 
wholly under steam alone, each of those two ships 
having made sail for a few hours only. The Con- 
stance continued to gain on the Octavia. 

On the 6th of October the Constance was 30 nau- 
tical miles from Funchal, 130 ahead of the Octavia, 
and about 200 from the Arethusa the last-named 
ship being about 170 miles to the E.S.E. of the direct 
course from Plymouth to Funchal. 

In the course of the same day the engines of the 
Arethusa and of the Octavia were stopped, as their 
coal was nearly exhausted, and they ran nearly all 
the rest of the way to Funchal under canvas alone, 
making several tacks. 

The engines of the Constance were eased on the 
6th of October, because of a westerly gale and head 
sea, and she arrived at Funchal on the 7th of 
October at 3 P.M., the Octavia on the 9th at 6.45 
A.M., and the Arethusa on the 10th at 5.35 P.M. 

Considering that the last two vessels completed 


the trip under sail and in stormy weather, it is obvi- 
ous that no fair comparison between their engines 
and those of the Constance can be deduced from the 
total time occupied between Plymouth and Funchal. 
In the case of the Arethusa, too, her having been 
three days under steam and canvas combined makes 
it difficult, if not impossible, to form a satisfactory 
judgment of her comparative economy of power. 

A comparison, however, though a rough one, of 
the three vessels, as regards the consumption of coal 
per indicated horse-power per hour, may be deduced 
from the official return published by the Admiralty 
of the power and of the fuel consumed from the 30th 
September to the 6th October, when the engines of 
the Arethusa and the Octavia were stopped, and those 
of the Constance eased. The following is the calcu- 
lation, with its results : 

Arethusa. Octavia. Constance. 
Hours under steam, 30th Sept.") 

to 6th Oct., inclusive, / 

Consumption of coal (tons), . . 228.85 276.74 242.5 
Mean consumption per hour (tons), 1.71 1.98 1.96 

Mean indicated power, . . 1052.2 1399.8 1747 

Mean rate of consumption (Ib.) \ 

per indicated horse-power per \ 3.64 3.17 2.51 


As regards the efficiency of the mechanism, the 
same return affords the means of comparing together 


in a general way the Octavia and the Constance, 
the Arethusa being excluded from the compari- 
son because of her having run so long under 
canvas and steam combined. The principle upon 
which the comparison is based is, that in similar 
vessels of equal size, with mechanism of equal 
efficiency, the indicated power varies as the cube of 
the speed ; and consequently, that if for two or more 
similar and equal vessels the cube of the speed of 
each vessel be divided by the indicated power, the 
proportions of the quotients to each other will show 
the comparative efficiency of the mechanism in the 
different vessels. The following is the calculation 
for the Octavia and the Constance, with results : 

Octavia. Constance. 

Time under steam, .... 140 124 

Distance run (nautical miles), . . 1051.7 1090.7 

Mean speed (knots), .... 7.52 8.80 

Cube of speed (omitting fractions), . . 425 682 

Indicated power, do., . 1400 1747 

Quotients, 0.304 0.39 

Proportionate efficiency of mechanism, . 100 : 127 

Or, . 79 : 100 

This may otherwise be expressed by saying, that 
at the same speed the Octavia would require 27 per 
cent more indicated power than the Constance, or 
the Constance 21 per cent less power than the 
Octavia. This comparison is not to be considered as 


very precise, because, strictly speaking, it is the 
mean value of the cube of the speed, and not the 
cube of the mean speed, that should be divided by 
the indicated horse-power. 

The superior economy of fuel, as compared with 
indicated power, in the Constance is, of course, to be 
accounted for by a higher initial pressure and a 
greater rate of expansion than those used in the 
other vessels, combined possibly with better jacket- 
ing and greater superheating. But the superiority 
of the Constance over the Octavia in efficiency of 
mechanism in other words, in economy of indi- 
cated power as compared with effective power can 
be accounted for only by the comparative smallness 
of the friction in the engines of the Constance ; and 
when it is considered that the engines of the Octavia 
were of a good design and of the best possible work- 
manship, the comparative smallness of the friction 
in the Constance must be ascribed mainly, if not 
wholly, to the balance of driving forces the result 
of the arrangement of cylinders and cranks in Mr 
Elder's three-cylindered compound engines. 

In a previous series of comparative trials of the 
Octavia and the Constance, each of those vessels 
made a run of 100 miles at each of the three speeds 
of 6, 8, and 10 knots, with the following results : 



Octavia. Constance, 

Rate of consumption of coal per indicated 
horse-power per hour 

At six knots, 1.90 2.31 

At eight knots, . ... . . 2.16 1.95 

At ten knots, . . . . . 2.58 2.11 

Mean of the three trials, . . . . 2.21 2.12 

Indicated horse-power 

At six knots, ...... 500 399 

At eight knots, . , . . ; . 1247 1046 

At ten knots, . . , . . . 1633 1483 

Proportionate efficiency of mechanism 

f 100 125 

At six knots, i :: 80 100 

( 100 119 

At eight knots | : s 84 100 

( 100 110 

At ten knots, . . ' ' ' 1 : : 91 100 

( 100 115 

Mean ' ' j :: 86 100 

During this series of comparative trials, the two 
ships appear to have been nearly equal in economy 
of fuel for a given indicated power. The superiority 
of the Constance in the efficiency of the mechanism, 
though smaller than that deduced from the report of 
the trip to Funchal, is still sufficient to prove a great 
diminution of friction through the balance of driving 
forces in the three-cylindered compound engine, and 
thus to furnish another practical proof of the sound- 


ness of Mr Elder's views respecting the waste of 
power in the friction of engines, and the means of 
diminishing that waste. 

Although Mr Elder invented certain forms of boiler 
applicable under special circumstances, he did not 
confine the practice of his firm to any peculiar form, 
but adapted the boilers to the service for which the 
vessel was intended. His opinion on this point is 
summed up in the following quotation from the lecture 
already referred to : "A judicious engineer will 
therefore design different forms of boilers for different 
circumstances, the object being to construct all his 
work so as to give the best return to the capitalist 
that employs him." 

On the whole, however, he used cylindrical boilers, 
fired at both ends, more frequently than other forms, 
and latterly he used this form alone. 

The same remark applies to superheaters. The 
form of superheater which he generally employed 
consisted of an uptake passing through the steam- 
chest ; and he varied the extent of superheating surface 
according to the degree of economy to be aimed at. 

As regards condensation, he approved of the or- 
dinary jet-condenser for fresh- water navigation, and 
for trips of moderate length in salt water. 

For long sea -voyages, his firm and he latterly 


adopted the surface-condenser, as being more econo- 
mical in working, though somewhat greater in first 
cost ; nevertheless, the remarkable economy of fuel 
in the earlier compound engines made by the firm 
was attained without the aid of surface-condensation. 

The power of calculating beforehand the probable 
engine-power required in order to drive a given ship 
at a given speed, or the probable speed at which a 
given ship will be driven by a given amount of 
engine-power, is obviously of much practical value. 

It has long been well known that at moderate 
speeds the engine-power required to drive a given 
ship varies nearly as the cube of the speed. 

About 1844 Mr Scott Eussell discovered the law 
that regulates the limits within which that principle 
is approximately true viz., the speed must not exceed 
that with which a wave naturally travels whose 
length bears certain fixed proportions to the lengths 
of the entrance and run of the vessel ; for so soon as 
the speed exceeds that limit, the power required 
begins to increase more rapidly than the cube of the 
speed. Hence a moderate speed for a given vessel 
may be understood to mean a speed not exceeding 
the limit determined by applying Mr Scott Russell's 
principle to that vessel. A speed exceeding that 
limit may be called an excessive speed. 


Early in 1858, an investigation of the laws of the 
resistance of ships, based on experiment and obser- 
vation, was made by the author of this Memoir at 
the instance of Mr J. E. Napier, who required it 
for practical purposes in shipbuilding ; and it led to 
the result that at moderate speeds, in the sense before 
mentioned, the resistance is chiefly of the kind called 
skin-resistance, depending on the friction between 
the water and the immersed surface of the ship, and 
that the power required to drive her may be calcu- 
lated approximately by multiplying the cube of the 
speed by a constant factor depending on the rough- 
ness or smoothness of the skin, and by a quantity 
called the augmented surface, which depends on the 
areas of the various parts of the skin, and on their 
positions relatively to the course of the particles of 
water that glide over them it being always under- 
stood, however, that the figure of the vessel must be 
such as to cause the particles to glide smoothly over 
her skin, and not to strike or dash against it, or 
become broken into eddies or foam. 

The first ship to which those principles were ap- 
plied, in order to calculate beforehand the power 
required at a given speed, was the paddle-wheel 
steamer Admiral, built by Mr J. E. Napier, and 
engined by Messrs Eandolph, Elder, & Co., in 1858, 



as already mentioned ; and the result was perfectly 
successful. The theory on which those principles 
were based, and the rules for applying them, were 
published in 1860. Mr Elder, with that ready 
appreciation of the practical value of scientific 
principles by which he was distinguished, at once 
made himself master of those principles, and con- 
tinued afterwards to use them in estimating the pro- 
bable power required in proposed vessels. 

It has already been shown that Messrs Eandolph, 
Elder, & Co. did not confine their practice to the 
construction of that form of compound engine 
which approaches the nearest to theoretical perfec- 
tion, but adopted modified forms suited to the cir- 
cumstances of particular cases. In addition to the 
instances already given, it may be mentioned that 
in many merchant screw-steamers, where simpli- 
city of construction and fewness of parts were 
aimed at, they used a form of compound engine 
resembling that already mentioned as having been 
first proposed by Nicholson a form which of late 
years has been adopted by many marine engineers. 
There are only two cylinders in all a high-pres- 
sure cylinder and a low r -pressure cylinder ; they 
stand side by side, and their pistons drive two 
cranks at right angles to each other ; and there is an 


intermediate steam-reservoir, believed to have been 
first added to this kind of engine by Mr E. A. Cowper, 
into which the steam passes from the high-pressure 
cylinder before its admission into the low-pressure 
cylinder. In the engines of this kind made by Mr 
Elder, the reservoir forms an outer cylinder of the 
same diameter with the low-pressure cylinder, and 
surrounding the high-pressure cylinder, the whole 
arrangement being very compact and simple, though 
not having the same advantages in point of balance 
of driving forces and diminution of friction which 
are possessed in the highest degree by the engines 
described under Elder's patent D, and in a less 
degree by those described under Randolph and 
Elder's patent C. 

There were cases in which, for the sake of still 
greater simplicity and compactness, it became ad- 
visable to dispense with compound engines and high 
rates of expansion, as not being required under the 
circumstances, and of such cases the following is an 

Between 1861 and 1864, a demand arose for a 
class of cargo steamers of very shallow draught, 
capable of running at a very high speed, not for a 
great length of time, but on occasions of emergency. 
Five such vessels were built and engined by Messrs 


Kandolph, Elder, & Co. They were of a very fine 
model, driven by paddle-wheels, with feathering 
plate-iron floats, and each of them had a pair of 
single -cylindered oscillating engines of ordinary 
form. Their boiler-power was very great for their 
size, so as to provide the means of producing steam 
with great rapidity and of high pressure when 
required. All those vessels attained a speed of 
from 16^ to 16^- knots on their trial-trips ; and that 
speed was not only realised at sea, but sometimes 
even exceeded. On one occasion, for example, when 
one of them was very hard pressed, the bold and 
skilful officer who commanded her succeeded, by an 
alteration of trim, in increasing her speed to 17 
knots, and thus enabled her to escape from im- 
minent danger. 

The firm of Kandolph, Elder, & Co. was dissolved 
by the expiration of the copartnery on the 30th 
of June 1868, having then existed for sixteen 
years. During that period the firm had made 111 
sets of marine steam - engines, whose aggregate 
nominal horse-power amounted to 20,145 ; they had 
built 106 vessels, whose aggregate tonnage amounted 
to 81,326 ; and they had also constructed three float- 
ing-docks. After the dissolution of the partnership, 
the works were earned on by Mr Elder alone. 


The following statement of the quantity of work 
executed during the time which elapsed from the 
dissolution of the partnership till the end of the 
year 1869, shows that the business had in fact 
become one of the greatest of its kind in the world : 
Number of sets of engines made, 18 ; aggregate 
nominal horse-power, 6110 ; number of vessels 
built, 14 ; aggregate tonnage, builders' measurement, 

The number of workmen employed in the engine- 
work and shipbuilding yard is about four thousand. 
Mr Elder took a strong and friendly interest in their 
comfort and wellbeing, and was regarded by them 
with corresponding respect and gratitude as an 
employer who was just and kind, as well as able. 
Amongst other acts of his for their benefit, he pro- 
moted, about half a year before his lamented death, 
the establishment of an accident fund, by under- 
taking to contribute to it in each month a sum 
equal to that which the workmen should raise by 
subscription amongst themselves, the result being 
that the income of the fund is about five hundred 
pounds a -year. It is managed by a committee 
partly appointed by the firm from amongst the 
foremen, partly elected by the workmen. 

Besides the lecture to which reference has already 


been frequently made, the views of Mr Elder on 
marine engineering are set forth in three papers, 
which were read respectively to the British Associa- 
tion at Leeds in 1858, at Aberdeen in 1859, and at 
Oxford in 1860, and printed in the Transactions of 
that body. 

Another lecture, delivered by Mr Elder to the 
United Service Institution on the 25th of May 18G8, 
and printed in their Journal, relates to a very re- 
markable invention, that of circular ships of war. 
His knowledge, to which reference has already been 
made, of the laws of the resistance of the water to 
the motion of vessels, led him to the inference that 
a ship with a hull of the form of a very flat segment 
of a sphere, like a floating saucer or watch-glass, 
would require little or no additional power to drive 
her at a moderate speed, beyond that which is re- 
quired to drive at the same speed a vessel of equal 
displacement and of the ordinary form. He tested 
this conclusion by experiment on models of about 
five feet in diameter, and found it to be correct ; and 
although at first sight it may seem paradoxical, its 
soundness will be understood when it is considered 
that the stream -lines, or lines of motion of the 
particles of water as they glide over the bottom of 
the vessel, are, in the case of a flat spherical seg- 


ment, of a fine form, being either exactly or nearly 
arcs of circles of a radius equal to that of the sphere. 
Mr Elder proposed that a vessel of this form, 
protected by a belt of armour, and by a deck of 
sufficient strength, should carry a circular turret 
suitably armed with guns, and should be provided 
with a system of submerged propellers, either of the 
screw or of the hydraulic kind, so arranged as to 
drive her in any direction, and, when required, to 
make her turn about her centre, thus dispensing with 
the necessity for any separate means of making the 
turret rotate. The probabilities in favour of the 
success of this invention are so strong, that a trial of 
it on a practical scale is much to be desired. 

Mr Elder was for four years a captain in the 
Eirst Lanarkshire Artillery Volunteers ; but the 
multiplicity of his business engagements at length 
made it impracticable for him to continue to hold 
that command. 

In April 1869, at the annual meeting of the In- 
stitution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland 
for the election of office-bearers, Mr Elder was 
unanimously elected President of that body; and its 
members looked forward with intense interest to the 
opening address which he would have had to deliver 
at the commencement of the session 1869-70. But 


their hopes were never to be fulfilled ; for his health, 
which had never been robust, at last gave way, and 
he died in London on the 17th of September 1869, 
at the early age of forty-five. 

He had been married on the 31st of March 1857 
to Isabella, daughter of Alexander Ure, Esq. of Glas- 
gow ; and for about three quarters of a year after his 
death, his business remained in the hands of that 
lady as sole proprietrix, and was carried on with un- 
diniinished success. It then passed into the hands 
of other partners, but it still continues to bear the 
honoured name of JOHN ELDER. 

Thus far this Memoir has related chiefly to the 
intellectual powers and the professional career of its 
subject. It is not to be supposed, however, that his 
mental cultivation was limited to professional matters. 
He possessed a large and varied stock of information 
on most subjects of general interest ; and with his 
clear head and excellent judgment, it is certain that 
in whatsoever pursuit he had chosen for his main 
occupation, he must have risen to distinction. The 
moral qualities of his mind were of a not less high 
order than his intellectual powers. While firm of 
purpose and energetic for every good object, he was 
kind, generous, and liberal, and one of the most 
truthful, just, and honourable men that ever lived. 


As regards the higher aspects of his character, the 
compiler of this Memoir is fortunately able to pro- 
duce the testimony of one whose qualifications to 
speak on that subject are better than his own. The 
following pages are extracted from a letter of the 
Eeverend Norman Macleod, D.D. 

" He was a member of my congregation, and I 
knew him well. I have seen him in all variety 
of outward circumstances in the heyday of his 
strength, vigorous in mind and body ; when suffer- 
ing from a painful and lingering illness ; when 
ministering to his venerated father on his deathbed, 
and to his admirable mother in her sorrow. 1 know 
what he was to his wife loved more than all ; and 
very many know, and never will forget, what he was 
as a friend ; and the better I and others knew him, 
the more we admired and loved him. 

" Mr Elder was truly a religious man. He was not 
a man of the slightest pretence in anything. He 
was far too sincere and truthful for that. Nor was 
he given to express, in any degree corresponding to 
their reality and depth, his feelings or affections, but 
was singularly calm, quiet, and undemonstrative. 
His religion was not, therefore, of that type which 
too commonly and very easily passes in society 
under the name, merely because certain opinions 


are held, and certain stereotyped phrases and shib- 
boleths are made use of. His religion was a life, 
not confined to the church or to Sunday, but carried 
out every day, in the family, in the counting-house, 
in society, and in business, manifested in untarnished 
honour, in the sweetest temper, in gentle words, and 
in remarkable and most unselfish considerateness for 
the feelings and the wants of others. Such a religion 
as his was the result of head, heart, and conscience 
dealing honestly with truth, and of a very simple 
and genuine faith in the love to him and authority 
over him of Jesus Christ. It was the deliberate choice 
of a strong will, affected by a pure mind, quick con- 
science, and affectionate heart. His character told 
upon every department of his workshop and build- 
ing-yard. Every one, from the oldest to the youngest, 
felt the presence of the man, and were influenced by 
his goodness as much as by his genius. In visiting 
the other day his great building-yard, one of his oldest 
and most trustworthy men, speaking of him, said to 
me: 'I never saw any one like him, nor expect to see 
his like again ! He was so just, so true, so kind to 
every one. Every man trusted him, and knew that 
he would do all that was possible to benefit them in 
every respect. He had many plans for their good, 
which, alas ! he was not spared to carry out. I never 
heard a rough or unkind word coming from his lips.' 



" His funeral was one of the most impressive sights 
I ever witnessed. The busy works south of the 
Clyde were shut, forge and hammer at rest, and 
silent as the grave. The forest of masts along the 
river were draped in flags, lowered half-mast in sign 
of mourning. A very army of workmen, dressed 
like gentlemen, followed his body column after 
column. Respectful crowds lined the streets, as if 
gazing on the burial of a prince ; and every one of 
us, as we took the last look of his coffin and left 
his grave, felt that we had left a friend behind us." 



No. I. 

Extracts from Letters of the Rev. W. G. Eraser. 

LOOKING back on my brief interviews with Mr Elder, I 
always felt lie was not, like the old philosopher, so absorbed 
in his mathematics as to forget more vital interests. 

When speaking with me on religious subjects, in his 
own quiet, clear, flowing, and forcible way, about trans- 
lating the facts of Christ's life into our own lives, the 
unmistakable impression was left on my mind that he 
was actually making this part of his own religion, in 
endeavouring to improve the temporal condition of those 
around him. Whatever he did for the bodily comfort of 
those under him, flowed, I have no doubt, from this living 
principle rising from the centre of his own spiritual being 
a God-given and Christ-implanted principle in the soul, 
leading to imitation of Christ in doing good to the bodies 
of men. 

One could not help feeling, in intercourse with Mr 
Elder on matters religious, that what he said was not 
merely from the unseen region of thought, not mere pro- 


fession and assertion, but experimental from heart and 
life. And judging only from conversations with him, in 
ignorance of his mode of caring for his numerous work- 
men, I shall be disappointed if there is not some proof in 
the record of his life of the justness of my impressions, 
that he was one who had at heart the temporal good of 
his workmen, and who wished this, as Christ wished to 
fill the nets of those who had toiled all night without 
success. In the spirit of the master, I should conclude, 
that he carried out Paul's precept, " Be ye kind and 
affectionate one to another." 

Mr Elder, though always calm, seemed always cheerful, 
never morose in conversation, sure to add some point or 
line of light on the subject of discussion. He was one of 
those "flowing light-fountains" of general knowledge, of 
unostentatious Christian principle, as well as eminent 
engineering skill "a living light-fountain," which one 
felt (when they had found it) was both pleasant and 
profitable to abide under its radiance. 

Had John Elder been spared to us, I am certain, from 
the spirit that leavened his motives, from the power com- 
bined with gentleness which characterised him, that he 
would have contributed large practical help in solving some 
of the difficult problems that are so often springing up 
between employers and employed in this country. I 
remember, after his furlough in Russia, how he contrasted 
the price of labour there with our higher prices here, and 
how, in genuine sympathy with the working man, he 
regretted those strikes as frequently far more injurious 


and disastrous to the men than to the masters, and how 
he wished to devise some plan whereby the men might 
be saved the hardships of standing out so long, and trade 
be prevented from leaving our shores, which it would ulti- 
mately do if strikes increased. 

That Mr Elder had not only the temporal interests 
of the men at heart, but also their highest moral and 
spiritual interests, I feel certain, from the way in which 
he spoke of their doubts in a conversation on the infi- 
delity of the age, and the mode he counselled us and all 
teachers to adopt in grappling with doubters ; the apt 
illustration being that of Thomas, the doubting disciple, 
who did not at first believe that most vital and funda- 
mental truth, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Yet 
the Saviour did not frown upon him as an infidel, nor 
sneer sarcastically at him, but came down and met him 
on his own ground, as if he entered into his doubts, and 
asked him to examine for himself the unmistakable proofs 
of the facts of his resurrection ; whereas, had Thomas 
been treated coolly, and called hard names for doubting 
what all the others believed, humanly speaking, he might 
have turned away in confirmed unbelief. 

The great Teacher, however, dealing sympathisingly 
and gently with Thomas, led him, from unbelief to faith, 
to exclaim, "My Lord, and my God." In like manner 
(continued Mr Elder) we should endeavour to meet all 
doubters on their own ground, giving them credit for 
what they do believe, and striving to furnish evidence 
for what they have difficulty about. In this way many 


might "be saved from the ranks of unbelief. Tennyson's 
lines in ' In Memoriam/ XCV., were partly quoted : 

" Perplexed in faith, but not in deeds, 
At last he beats his music out ; 
There lives more faith in honest doubt, 
Believe me, than in half the creeds. 
He fought his doubts and gathered strength ; 
He could not make his judgment blind ; 
He faced the spectres of the mind, 
And laid them : thus he came at length 
To find a stronger faith his own ; 
And power was with him in the night, 
Which makes the darkness and the light, 
And dwells not in the light alone." 

Although it was my privilege and happiness to have 
those frequent interviews with Mr Elder, and although 
we had often a quiet chat on religious subjects, yet I 
should conclude that generally he was reserved on these 
matters. Never were they obtruded on the general com- 
pany; and all that he said on those topics was said in 
that quiet unostentatious manner that impressed me with 
the feeling that there was in him a deep realising of eter- 
nity as closely connected with time. 


No. II. 

LIVERPOOL, 2lst Sept. 1869. 

At a meeting of the Court of Directors held here this 
day, Mr Charles Turner, M.P., the Chairman of the Com- 
pany, presiding, the recent death of Mr John Elder was 
brought under notice, and it was unanimously resolved 
that, having regard to the late Mr Elder's long and valued 
connection with the Company, a vote of condolence with 
Mrs Elder be recorded, that Mr Just communicate the 
same, and express the deep sympathy of the Directors 
with her under her severe and trying affliction. 

LIVERPOOL, 2lst Sept. 1869. 

MY DEAR MRS ELDER, It is now my duty to transmit 
herewith an extract from the minutes of the Board to-day, 
expressing the sincere sympathy of the Directors under 
your present trying dispensation ; and I feel it due, alike 
to the memory of your late respected husband and to the 
Directors, to add, that in his death they recognise the loss 
of a valued connection and private friend. I remain, my 
dear Mrs Elder, yours very sincerely, 

Mrs ELDER, Elm Park, Govan, Glasgow. 



Mrs ELDER, Elm Park, near Glasgow : 

DEAR MADAM, I am instructed by the Directors to 
inform you that they have this day unanimously resolved 
that, in recognition of your late husband's services to this 
Company, in the economy of fuel through the use of his 
compound engines, one of the vessels now building by the 
firm for the "West Coast service should bear his name. 
The vessel last contracted for shall therefore be called the 
" John Elder." I am, dear Madam, yours very truly, 



In reply to your inquiry as to the extent and nature of 
the Company's business connection with the late lamented 
John Elder, and with the firm of Messrs Eandolph, 
Elder, & Co., of which he was the guiding spirit so far as 
regards marine steam-engines, I may explain that it began 
in the year 1856, on the occasion of supplying to the Val- 
paraiso a set of engines on Mr Elder's compound principle 
the second, as I believe, of the class made by the firm; 
shipbuilding being subsequently added to the engineering 
business, which together were ultimately carried on by 
Mr Elder alone. The Company have built no fewer than 



22 steam-ships in that yard, and have been supplied, in- 
cluding those now building, with 30 pairs of the double- 
cylindered engines. In fact, on account of the advan- 
tages in the saving of fuel, which, according to our expe- 
rience, reaches 30 to 35 per cent, we would not think of 
any other type of machinery. 

As you are no doubt aware, the operations have, up to 
a recent period, been confined to the west coast of South 
America, where, in consequence of the high price, economy 
of fuel is of the first importance. It was during the 
Russian war, when tonnage for the conveyance of coal 
hence to the Pacific became so scarce, and the cost of the 
article abroad was thereby more than doubled for a time, 
that we were led to inquire into the question of a saving 
of coal. Mr Elder was called in and consulted, and the 
double-cylinder engine adopted, as before mentioned, and 
with a success far beyond our most sanguine expectations, 
or the advantages held out by Mr Elder himself. Indeed 
I am in fairness bound to admit, that his double-cylinder 
engines never exceeded the promised consumption, nor 
fell short of the guaranteed speed. On the contrary, the 
promised results were always more than realised ; and I 
may add, that such was the progress in improvement in 
the double-cylinder engines, that the last-delivered vessels 
surpassed the Valparaiso in the economy of fuel as far as 
she surpassed the ordinary type of machinery. 

A short time before Mr Elder's death, the Company 
undertook to carry out a mail service for the Chili Govern- 
ment between Europe and Valparaiso, and he was called 


on to design and construct four large steam-ships of upwards 
of 3000 tons and 500 horse-power. Those vessels have 
been so remarkable as regards regularity in performance 
of the voyage, a distance of 19,000 miles on the round 
the greatest steam-line in the world and economical in 
the consumption of coal, that the attention of many large 
steam- ship owners, who had long remained sceptical, has 
been more particularly attracted to the merits of the com- 
pound engine, so that ere long I believe the old type of 
machinery will be unheard of. For this rapid stride in 
economy, steam-ship owners are, no doubt, indebted to 
Mr Elder ; and many successful lines of steamers have 
been projected which never would have had an existence 
but for the compound principle ; thus carrying out the 
great idea of not only bringing greater advantages and 
new pleasures into existence, but so cheapening those that 
previously existed as to bring them within the reach of 
many who otherwise could not have enjoyed them : and 
thus also will Mr Elder's name be transmitted to posterity 
as a worthy disciple of Watt. 

Speaking from long experience, I can aver that, whe- 
ther in friendship or business, no man could have been 
more reliable, or more worthy of confidence. 



No. III. 



GLASGOW, 2,7th Sept. 1869. 

Mr J. P. Smith begs hereAvith to transmit to Mrs 
Elder the enclosed excerpt minute of meeting of council 
of the Institution of Engineers, which he trusts she will 
kindly receive. He would at the same time desire to ex- 
press his own sympathy. 


with which is incorporated 


GLASGOW, 27th Sept. 1869. 

(Excerpt of Minute of Council held on 3d Sept. 1869.) 
It was unanimously resolved that the council of the 
Institution formally record their deep sense of the great 
loss the Institution had sustained by the death of their 
President, Mr John Elder, and also of the misfortune 
which had befallen the profession, in losing in the prime 
of life one whose skill, energy, and varied attainments 
had done so much for its advancement. 

It was further resolved that the council transmit to 
Mrs Elder the expression of their sympathy in her be- 
reavement, with the assurance that Mr Elder's memory 
will remain with them associated with all that is to be 
esteemed for high professional ability, integrity of pur- 
pose, and trustworthy friendship. 

Extracted from the minutes. 




No. IV. 

12th October 1869. 

Mrs ELDER, Govan : 

MADAM, I have the melancholy satisfaction of trans- 
mitting to you the annexed excerpt from the minutes 
of the Police Commissioners of the Burgh of Govan. 
I have the honour to be, Madam, your most obedient 



" At Govan, and within the Burgh Chambers, the eleventh 
October 1869. At a general meeting of the Police 
Commissioners of the burgh, Provost Thomas Eeid 
in the chair, 

"Inter alia, the Chairman officially reported the death 
since last meeting of John Elder, Esq., one of the Com- 
missioners, and moved ' That the Commissioners resolve 
to record in their minutes that by the death of John 
Elder, Esq., their Board has been deprived of a member 
from whose presence, had health permitted it, and life 
been spared, their deliberations would have derived in- 
valuable aid and enhanced authority ; and that the general 
community of the burgh honour the memory of a marine 
engineer of distinguished genius and enterprise, while 
they lament the loss of a large and beneficent employer 


of labour, a public-spirited citizen, and a good man ; and 
resolve further, that a copy of the minute be transmitted 
to Mrs Elder, with the respectful condolence of the Com- 
missioners upon her irreparable bereavement.' 

" The Commissioners unanimously approved of the 
Provost's motion, and instructed the clerk accordingly." 

Extracted from the minutes by 



No. V. 

GLASGOW, 17th Sept. 1869. 

Mrs ELDER : 

DEAR MADAM, In acknowledgment of Mr Elder's 
letter of the 7th Sept. last, accepting the honorary mem- 
bership of this Association, I am directed by the council 
to express to you our deep sense of the loss we have sus- 
tained by his lamented death, and to express our very 
sincere sympathy with you in your heavy bereavement. 
I am, Madam, your respectful and obedient servant. 


Secy., Session 1868-69. 


No. VI. 

Extract from Letter of W. Edward MacAndrew, Esq., 
of Messrs MacAndrew fy Co. 

WALBROOK, LONDON, Oct. 22, 1870. 

In all, we had ten steamers built, and three more en- 
gined thirteen in all by Mr Elder. I "believe that he built 
his first screw-steamer for us, and she is still running with 
most satisfactory results indeed, our unparalleled suc- 
cess in the steam business, in face of severe opposition, 
is solely attributable to our connection with Mr Elder 
enabling us to effect such economies over our opponents. 

Mr Elder was our consulting engineer as well as the 
contractor for the work, and everything that he could per- 
sonally superintend was uniformly successful in its results. 

Both Mr Elder and myself were animated by a desire 
to introduce improvements and economies into naval archi- 
tecture and marine engineering ; and it was a knowledge of 
Mr Elder's views in this matter which led to our seeking 
him in the first place. We joined in experiments, which 
naturally cost something at first, but were ultimately very 
successful and pecuniarily advantageous to both firms. 
I know that had he lived, he would have intro- 
duced, at least, as great reforms into naval as into mer- 
cantile building and engineering. 

I have only to add that Mr Elder was always most 


liberal in all matters of contract, and by his constant ur- 
banity and liberal execution of all contracts, commanded 
a preference over all other builders. His personal work 
and superintendence were hardly less valuable to the busi- 
ness than his irresistible courtesy and unmistakable intelli- 
gence in going into any matter. 

He was always ready to give his time to discussing any 
suggestion, whether made by himself or others, and was 
not only thoroughly scientific, but eminently practical. 
Unlike other inventors, he did not overstate results to be 
attained, nor did he press his inventions on those who 
were too prejudiced to adopt them. He built steamers 
and engines of the old style for those who so wished 
them, and always laid the case fairly before his customers. 
Naturally, old plans and old ways are pre- 
ferred by many, and few could move as fast as Mr Elder 
in evolving or executing improved systems. 


No. VII. 

Extract from Letter of H. Oliver Robinson, Esq., contrac- 
tor for the Dutch East Indian Steam-Packet Service. 

EDINBURGH, Wth October 1870. 

This service (I may explain) embraces six lines of inter- 
colonial steam-navigation, centring at Batavia, the capital, 


performing regular voyages to and from the following 
ports : Singapore (connecting with the European lines), 
Samarang, Sourabaya, and Cheribon, in Java ; Padang, 
Bencoolen, and Palembang, in Sumatra; Macassar and 
Menado, in Celebes ; Amboyna, Baiida, and Ternate, in the 
Spice Islands ; Sinkawang and Bandjermassing, in Borneo; 
and requiring for the performance of this service at least 
ten steam-vessels of different sizes or classes. 

Those steam -vessels were required to be specially 
adapted for a tropical climate, and for seas where " foul- 
ing " takes place with a rapidity far exceeding those of a 
temperate climate ; whilst the high cost of coals (about 
2 per ton) rendered economy of consumption of the first 

"When to these conditions is added the shallowness of 
the coasts, the prevalence of coral reefs and sandbanks, 
and the absence of lighthouses and beacons in this 
Eastern Archipelago, it will be readily understood that 
steam-vessels of a highly special adaptation were indis- 
pensable to success, both in a maritime and financial point 
of view. 

It is unnecessary for me here to refer to the acquaint- 
ance I had previously the pleasure to form with Mr Elder, 
beyond saying that from it I felt the conviction that he 
possessed in a high degree the talents and experience 
necessary to aid me in designing those steam-vessels, and 
in determining the leading points in the construction of 
the vessels and engines. 

To him accordingly, upon my return from Java in 


August 1864, 1, as the contractor with the Dutch Colonial 
Government for this steam-service, applied for this aid ; 
and, with his well-known generosity and kindness, he 
threw himself unsparingly into the subject, and by our 
joint labours the working drawings and specifications of 
the whole of the necessary steam-vessels, with their ma- 
chinery and boilers, were finally settled. 

The relative importance of those different lines of steam- 
navigation necessarily determined the sizes and powers of 
the steam -vessels, and three classes were fixed upon as 
follows, viz. : 

First class, 1050 tons builders' measurement, and 200 
horses' power. 

Second class, 850 tons builders' measurement, and 150 
horses' power. 

Third class, 500 tons builders' measurement, and 80 
horses' power. 

From the fact that all the ten steam-vessels were re- 
quired to be out at Batavia ready to commence the service 
on the 1st January 1866, Mr Elder's firm could only 
undertake to build and engine four, and to engine a fifth 
steamer, being all of the first and second class ; and ac- 
cordingly, contracts for their delivery " ready for sea " at 
certain fixed dates were entered into with the firm, and 
were duly and faithfully performed ; and on the trial, the 
speed and consumption of coals completely fulfilled the 
stipulated conditions. 

These steam-vessels have now been running nearly five 
years, without any perceptible falling-off, and without re- 


quiring repairs to either vessels, machinery, or boilers 
the only matter of regret being that the whole of the fleet 
could not have been obtained from the same source. 

It may be of interest to refer here to a few of the pecu- 
liar points of those steam- vessels, which were considered 
necessary to adapt them to the service in question. 

Their draught light, with great beam. The passen- 
ger accommodation all on deck, spacious and airy, covered 
by a spar deck. The rig schooner, with taunt masts, 
and large canvas for the light winds of the Eastern 
Archipelago, where typhoons never reach. But the 
engines were more especially the point to which Mr 
Elder devoted his attention, and on which he showed the 
great liberality of his mind. 

Owing to the circumstances that those steamers never 
would have occasion to return to Europe in the ordinary 
course, and that the Suez Canal was then not a fact, it was 
obviously desirable to have their engines and boilers of 
the most simple design, whilst the light construction of 
the vessels rendered it of importance to keep down the 
weight of the machinery as much as possible. To meet 
these desiderata, single - cylinder engines of the most 
economical possible consumption, instead of his own 
double - cylinder engines, were proposed to him by me. 
This idea he at once entered into, and applied himself to 
the carrying of it out with his usual ardour, and with 
such success, that upon the trial-trips of the steamers the 
consumption of Scotch coal was only 2f Ib. per horse- 
power per hour (indicated). 


In all these matters of engineering and construction, 
the only partner of the firm with whom I came in contact 
was Mr Elder, whom, in addition to his great talents and 
liberal views in mechanical matters, I found to be exceed- 
ingly straightforward, as well as easy to deal with on all 
financial points. 


No. VIII. 

LEITH, 3d November 1870. 

I had been some time groping after some method of 
getting better results from the marine engine, when I be- 
came acquainted with Mr Elder, and at once saw he had 
thoroughly mastered the whole question. I have had 
seven pairs of those engines, all working now in the most 
perfect order, and giving the most complete satisfaction. 

When I saw the results of the first pair, I ventured to 
predict that they must entirely supersede all other marine 
engines; and I am now seeing them adopted by those 
who were keenest in depreciation of them. 

The vessels in which my engines were placed are doing 
their work in all parts of the world, and doing it well. 
Nearly all of them have been trading to the East, via the 
Suez Canal ; and no one can doubt that Mr Elder's inven- 
tion has placed steam-navigation on a footing which will 


enable it, by means of the Canal, to extend indefinitely 
commerce and civilisation in the East. 

It was a true pleasure to have business dealings with 
Mr Elder, as it was a true happiness to enjoy his private 
friendship. I had to send no inspector to see work faith- 
fully done in an establishment where all work was faith- 
fully done. Mr Elder was ever ready to give information 
and advice ; and my experience has invariably been that 
I obtained in practice better results than promised, a some- 
what unusual experience of inventors. I often told Mr 
Elder I wished I had known him sooner. It would have 
been well for the world had he been spared to us longer. 


No. IX. 

Letter on part of Employees. 

FAIBFIELD YARD, Sept. 20, 1869. 

MY DEAR SIR, The employees of our late deceased 
employer, Mr Elder, are desirous of showing their gratitude, 
and the manner in which they esteem his memory, by 
being granted the liberty of following his remains to 
the place of interment, or part of the way, in whatever 
manner the relations of our late worthy employer shall 
see fit to appoint. They will feel grateful by this boon 
being granted them, as it may be the last open mark that 
they shall have the liberty of ascribing to his memory, 


and their sympathy towards his bereaved wife and 
relations. Your obedient servant, 


No. X. 

Letter on the part of Foremen and Workmen. 

GOVAJT, 22d Sept. 1869. 

DEAR MADAM, At a meeting of the Fairfield Accident 
Fund Committee (representing the entire body of the 
foremen and workmen in Fairfield Shipbuilding Yard) it 
was unanimously resolved to address to you a letter of 
condolence expressing our sentiments of heartfelt sym- 
pathies with you in being bereaved of your loving spouse, 
and ourselves deprived of a deservingly - esteemed em- 

"We would refrain from intruding upon your acute grief 
at this time, but our feelings constrain us to give un- 
qualified expression to our sincere grief for the irreparable 
loss which you have sustained. 

By this sad calamity we mourn the loss of the most 
benevolent of employers and the most generous of masters 
the community the loss of the enterprising and im- 
portant supporter the benevolent and the Christian that 
material aid which enabled them to make provision for the 
needy the erring restrained and advised towards a new 


By this sad calamity we mourn the loss as a star of 
the first magnitude in the engineering and shipbuilding 
system which has suddenly vanished, but whose lustre 
shall outlive the present generation. 

By this sad calamity Scotland has cause to weep for an 
ingenious and illustrious son, rearing a memorial in the 
hearts of the people which shall remain untarnished 
during succeeding ages. 

And now that we have confidence that he has gone to 
his rest, we earnestly desire that this providential visita- 
tion may be sanctified to you and to us ; may God the 
Father be to you the husband of the widow, your stay 
and protector in all circumstances God the Son your 
friend and adviser and God the Holy Spirit your com- 
forter in your sad bereavement, is the prayer of your 
sincere sympathisers and faithful servants, 

ALEX& NEIL, President, 

WM. MILLAR, Secretary 

for the F airfield Accident Fund Committee. 




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